Tigers roar into finals after last round thriller

Come on: Brandon McDonald celebrates one of his four goals during Morwell's epic win over Sale. photograph gippsland league



MORWELL will remember Saturday, August 20 2022 for a few years to come.
To the Tiger faithful, that will forever be known as the day Morwell snaffled the last available spot in the Gippsland League finals series with a thrilling 9.9 (63) to 9.1 (55) win over Sale.
Heading into the last round of the season, Morwell needed to win and rely on Traralgon defeating Maffra in order to make the finals.
The Tigers rose to the occasion, handing the Magpies their first loss since Round 11, while the Maroons held up their end of the bargain.
On what was an emotional day for all connected to the yellow and black, the Stan Morgan Pavilion was officially unveiled before the senior match started.
It almost seemed destined then that Morwell players would find the extra motivation needed to win given what was at stake.
Mr Morgan was surely looking down proudly after the final siren.
With the double-chance locked away, Sale went into the match without key players Shannen Lange, Kane Martin and Ryan Pendlebury.
Very little separated the combatants in the first half, and scores were locked at 30 apiece come the main break, although Morwell had registered 4.6 (30) to five straight goals by that stage.
The Magpies continued to kick with precision in the third, and took a six-point lead heading into the final term.
With their season on the line, the Tigers were faced with 30 minutes of football to determine if it would be the last 30 they played in 2022.
News from Traralgon’s game with Maffra came to the Tigers huddle, and with the Maroons having that match sewn-up, Morwell knew then and there the equation was win and play finals.
In a pulsating last quarter, scores were level before Morwell got out to a nine point lead. Sale pegged one back, only for the ball to land in the arms of Tigers captain Boyd Bailey on the final siren.
In a perfect script, Bailey went back and slotted the goal, securing victory by eight points and finals by four.
Bailey was instrumental for the winners, as was best-on-ground Tyler Brown. Brandon McDonald kicked four goals, while Burkeley Macfarlane, Aidan Quigley and Dan Musil did a great job.
Best for Sale was Will Leslie, Jayden Allison, Cooper Whitehill, Jack Leslie, Jack McLaren and Pat Tainsh.
The Tigers completed a remarkable turnaround – qualifying for finals after heading into the midseason break with only won four wins to their name.
Morwell won six of their last nine to make it.
Football has a remarkable way of working out sometimes.
As Morwell players entered the rooms to rapturous applause, the Tiger song was belted out with gusto for what was arguably Morwell’s best win since the 2014 grand final.
Just two words summed up the feeling of all gathered in that moment – ‘we’re in’.
Morwell will now turn its attention to defeating Traralgon in the elimination final on Sunday – an opponent it has beaten this season.
Cancel whatever you have on that day and get down to the Maroons’ home ground.
It will be compulsive viewing between two arch rivals.
TRARALGON brought about the end to the second-longest reign in Gippsland League history.
The Maroons defeated Maffra 14.9 (93) to 5.13 (43), the fallout of which meant the Eagles missed finals for the first time since 2000.
Taking to Terry Hunter Oval, the home side was rarely challenged, and after kicking nine goals to one in the first quarter, set about running the match out with one eye turned to the next week.
Brett Eddy kicked five goals for the victors, and received good support from Tye Hourigan, Matt Northe, Hugh Dunbar, Tom Schneider and Tate Marsh.
For the Eagles, it was a disappointing way to bow out, especially after appearing to have a finals position all but secured for a large part of the regular season.
Jack Challands ended his 2022 with a best afield performance. Others to play well for Maffra were James Read, Alex Carr, James Huts, Tom Thatcher and Andrew Petrou.
MOE had an anticlimactic end to its season.
The Lions travelled to Wonthaggi, and were beaten 21.12 (138) to 7.4 (46).
Taking to a water-logged ground, Moe kept in touch with the Power until the first break, but after that, it was one-way traffic.
Wonthaggi completely dominated the middle section of the match, kicking 14 goals to one during the second and third term.
The Lions added three goals in the last, with veteran Clinton Taylor kicking one in what was believed to be his final senior match.
Taylor has played over 200 games and given well over 200 days service to the Lions in a number of roles.
Fellow veteran Ben Morrow was best-on-ground, and had some help from Harri Sim, Jacob Wood and Trent Baldi. Lucas Fry also played well, bringing out the trick bag with a nice dummy-sell in the third quarter, while Matt Heywood, one of only three Moe players to appear in all 18 games this season, was serviceable.
Moe’s situation this season could be summed up by the fact Heywood, Baldi and Grady Cocksedge were the only players to play every senior game this season, to go with three in the reserves to play all 18 – six players on the whole senior list played every game.
Best for Wonthaggi was Jack Hutchinson, Aidan Lindsay, Harry Dawson, Andrew Murray (four goals), Josh Bates and Noah Anderson.
Power coach Jarryd Blair did not play, while key player Ryan Sparkes was spotted doing sprints on the neighbouring soccer pitch the morning of the match.
Both would be expected to come back for the qualifying final this Saturday.
Hearing Wonthaggi defender Shannon Bray calling out teammate Jaxon Williams at the weekend to “man up” when they were winning by close to 100 points may provide an indication into just how focused the Power are heading into the finals.
OTHER matches across the league were games of little to no significance.
Leongatha destroyed Drouin by 136 points, and Warragul accounted for Bairnsdale.
The Parrots will now put their feet up for a week, while the other three will put theirs up until preseason starts.